In a season that easily could have been considered a turnaround year for a team with a new head coach following a first round exit in the playoffs, the Stony Brook women’s soccer team capped off an unforgettable season as the 2019 America East champions following a 2-1 victory over the Hartford Hawks.
The Seawolves thoroughly controlled the first half of play, outdoing the Hawks in nearly every category. The Seawolves earned five shots to the Hawks two, also leading four to one on shots on goal, six to zero on corners, and 56% to 44% on first half possession. The Seawolves also had the ball on Harftord’s side of the field for 70% of their first half possessions.
Their dominant first half was highlighted by the first goal of the game in the 28th minute. Coming off an assist from freshman midfielder Paula Petri, junior forward Erin O’Connor fired an attempted pass from outside the box that bounced over Hartford junior goalkeeper Maia Perez’s head for the goal.
The Hawks came out of halftime strong with the first three corners and the first two shots of the second half. The Seawolves stretched their lead to two in the 72nd minute as junior forward Fanny Götesson sealed the game with her sixth goal on the season, off of fellow junior forward Alyssa Francese’s first assist of the season and her 24th point accounted for.
Hartford finally answered back in the 81st off a goal from Hawks redshirt-senior midfielder Molly Socha that barely got by the Seawolves’ junior goalkeeper Sofia Manner. Hartford led the game in shots and corners with 13 and eight respectively, but it was the Seawolves’ ability to put seven of their nine shots on goal that made the difference in the end. Despite a heroic five save performance from Perez, the Seawolves pulled through for the win.
“We won,” Stony Brook head coach Tobias Bischof said during a postgame interview with The Statesman. “The plan was at the beginning of the year when we prepared for preseason, through preseason, the first non-conference game, trying to figure out who the team is, what the team is and what we can do. The goal always was playing this game today. It’s good for the team and I am happy for the team. I am proud of the team that we found a way to get here. Winning in this is absolutely awesome.”
O’Connor, Götesson, senior defender Francesca Lee and junior midfielder Chelsie DePonte were named to the 2019 All-Championship Team for their efforts. O’Connor, who found the back of the net only once in the regular season in her first season at Stony Brook after transferring from LIU Post, netted three of the Seawolves’ four goals in the team’s two playoff games. For her efforts, O’Connor was named the 2019 America East Championship Most Outstanding Player.
“I’m just really thankful that we are champs,” O’Connor said in a postgame interview with The Statesman. “It’s more of a team effort, so I’m just thankful that I have 30 other players behind me to get us where we are today.”
Fellow All-Championship Team member DePonte echoed O’Connor’s sentiments. “Our team worked so hard to get to this point, and it’s so nice to see everything pay off.”
Now, the team prepares for the next big challenge: the NCAA Tournament. The team feels ready for anything they may face.
“One of our goals that we always set in the beginning of the year was winning our first NCAA Tournament game,” Lee stated happily. “We’re not letting up yet.”
As for who the Seawolves credit for this season, they praise the fans above all else for this season. Bischof, the man who came in just this year, summarized it best.
“Great fans. Stony Brook is a great university. Great place, great people involved with the program. The fans are awesome and they give us the energy that we need sometimes to push through even those hard games and especially those hard conference games.”
But for now, the team stands alone on top of the conference. Led in the playoffs by a transfer with one regular season goal, a Stony Brook team that has grown throughout the season has beaten the odds to be crowned champions.